Fancy paying in excess of ﬁfty quid to see an overdressed glutton screeching away in a foreign language?
80 WHAT’S THIS P
‘Oh. opera‘s so elitist. It‘s so inflated by its self- appointed canonisation as the highest art form. Its audience are all upper middle class stockbrokers with money to burn and wives who wear Pierre Cardin scarves and pungent Helena Rubenstein perfume. who think outlaying £785 to spend the night listening to over-wrought prima donnas screeching inconsolably because they've snagged their outrageously lavish lampshade of a costume on part of the ridiculously opulent set constitutes some kind of social status. Anyway. I could never go. the prices
What was that mewling'.’ ‘I could never go . . .' Rumbled! How many opera sceptics have actually been to an opera'.’ Have actually paid a paltry £3.50 to sit up in the Theatre Royal gallery (a location as acoustically accessible as any in the auditorium)? Have actually had the joy of watching Scottish ()pera turn a polite piece of harpsichord mimsy (Handel‘s Julius Caesar) into a vibrant riot of primary colours and raffishly irreverent character portrayal‘.’ Witnessed a shaven-headed Ptolemy and Cleopatra collude charismatically like Right Said Fred's Richard litirbrass duetting with Sinead ()‘Connor'.’
Wise up. suckers. Opera is not stuffy. At the very most it's mindful of its heritage. Just because it can point to a tradition which started before the end of last week doesn‘t make it solely the estate of fading dowagers with purple rinses. Join the mass of students. unemployed people and cheapskates who pack the upper reaches of the theatre. and see why.
It's the recognised gesamtkimstwerk — which loosely translated means ‘a hotch-potch of every form of artistic endeavour known to man since time immemorial. therefore providing the consummate aesthetic encounter‘. Which might explain why Scottish Opera has been recording attendances of over 95% for years now. Which might also in turn
Or is it time we examined our prejudices and asked . . .
point to why it’s worthwhile subsidising the medium so heavily. Do you want to have the cast of La 'I'raviata wearing sackcloth and inhabiting a minimalist wasteland? ()pera only receives so much money because it needs so much money. There is an orchestra to pay. you may be aware.
I autumn and Ham rattan—Ta Harry
l Scotland is privileged to have its own opera
company with its own theatre home. Celebrate it. Indulge yourself. Don‘t worry about the staunch traditionalists in the £40 seats -— they help subsidise your inexpensive entertainment. and keep the cheap seats free for you to snaffle. (l‘iona Shepherd) l
Enllell's Guide to Opera.
Is your knowledge of opera limited to Cornetto ads and football themes? Fear not. Resident diva Miranda France helps you hit the high notes with our instant guide to help you become an opera cognoscenti.
As a rule. female characters should have at least two of the following: their virginity; a lot of money: no money at all: tuberculosis. Male characters should be lovelorn poets. heartless ends or randy old codgers. .\'o matter that the lithe and handsome Rodolfo is played by Pavarotti or that Carmen is nearer to ()0 than 2]. Audience disbelief must be suspended at all times.
In particular The top ten operas you really have to
he is to marry Amneris. but Aida's
father persuades her to trick Radames
into revealing the route of the next
campaign against lithiopia. Radames‘s
treachery is discovered and he is buried
alive with Aida.
Highlights: Radames: Celeste Aida — Divine Aida Interval ('hal.‘ Casually mention that
audiences used Verdi’s name as a . double entendre during the 1850s drive
know to pass any simple culture-vulture i
I Aida (Verdi)
Aida. an Ethiopian slave to Amneris. daughter of Pharaoh. despairs when the man of her dreams. (ieneral Radames. is named as the leader ol a campaign against lithiopia. ()n his glorious return
L___--_. ._ --_ 6 The List 26 l-"ebruary—~-l 1 March W93
for Italian independence; it could be read as an acronym for Vittorio limmanuele Re d‘ltalia (the king). Hence the cry ‘Viva VliRDll‘
I the Barber of Seville (Rossini) Seville’s popular barber l‘igaro helps
kept under lock and key by her crusty old guardian Don Bartolo. who also hopes to marry her. Almaviva manages to get into Rosina‘s house. and all sorts
of shenanigans follow. until Figaro turns up to give everyone a shave. He helps Almaviva carry off Rosina just before her midnight-marriage to Bartolo. who gets to keep her dowry.
? which was all he wanted anyway.
. Highlights: Rosina: [Ina voce poco fa -- A little voice I heard just now
: (apparently known in the business as
'Do not poke it up too far.)
. Interval chat: Try a feminist critique:
are Rosina's own opinions about whom she would like to marry given enough
weight by Rossini? Maybe she really
fancied Figaro . . '.
I La Boheme (Puccini)
Marcello (painter). Rodolfo (poet). Colline (philosopher) and Schaunard (musician) are just a bunch of guys struggling to get by on the meagre fruits of their intellect. Rodolfo is home alone when Mimi. a beautiful neighbour with a nasty cough comes by looking for a light for her candle (no
' (iold Blend in those days). She drops
her key and. as she and Rodolfo fumble
, for it on the floor. their hands meet and
f they fall instantly in love. In the second
act they horse around a bit with the
other bohemians. but Rodolfo‘s jealousy spoils the atmosphere and. in
Count Almaviva woo the lovely Rosina.:
the end. the nasty cough does for Mimi.
; Her last desire is to be bought a woolly
muff. Highlights: Rodolfo: Che gelida manina — Your tiny hand is frozen
Interval chat: Present a Freudian 1 analysis of Mimi’s muff — is it just to warm up those tiny hands or does Mimi f really want to return to the womb‘.’ 3
l Carmen (Bi/ct)
Micaela. a sweet country girl. arrives in Seville to visit her childhood sweetheart Sergeant Jose. with a view to getting engaged. L'nfortunately' Carmen. a gypsy ne’er-do—well who‘s i been kicking up trouble in the cigarette factory. is a much more promising 1 option. Jose falls for Carmen and lets I her out of prison but. alas. she's a fickle‘ wench (she did warn him) who quickly ’ transfers her affection to liscamillo. the bulllighter. Jose won't reconcile himself to Carmen's betrayal and he kills her outside the bullring just as liscamillo is clocking up another victory. 1 Highlights: Carmen: l.'amour est un oiseau rebellc * Love is an untamed bird: liscamillo: Toreador's Song Interval ('ltut.‘ Discuss the sexual dynamics of bullfighting. with full reference to Picasso and Hemingway. Suggest that the bull symbolises Carmen's raw passion.
I Don Giovanni (Mozart)
Giovanni is the kind of sleaze—ball you avoid at parties. only to find him groping your best friend in the broom cupboard later. History's most infamous seducer. he slips up really